As my first unabridged, non-zombie version of a Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility has taken a firm hold of my mind. It didn’t let go last night until around 1:30 in the morning. My eyes simply gave out, not my desire to read.
The tale follows the lives of two sisters after the death of their father. One having a sense and the other lacking it entirely. Both are young; still in fact teenagers when the novel begins.
Most of the story is told in dialogue which would surely drive my students insane. It is, however, quite refreshing in my mind especially the scene where the Dashwood ladies and Edward Ferris discuss what they would do if they were all gifted with large fortunes. It reminds me of conversations that my family has concerning what we would do with lottery proceeds. The irony of the conversation is that Marianne delights in the idea after declaring the money does not bring happiness. She goes on to declare exactly what she believes a household staff should include. If it wasn’t obvious before this point, it should be crystal clear after it, Marianne is immature and has no internal filter.
Her older sister, Elinor, has the sense, maybe too much for her own good. She perhaps defines the propriety of the age. She also reminds me of my own sister, Ann. A natural leader in the family. I only wish she was as loving as Elinor is in the novel, family gatherings would be so much nicer.
There is a third sister in the novel, Maureen, who at thirteen doesn’t play much of a role. In movie adaptations, she often has a larger part. In both she is the awkward little sister caught between childhood and adulthood.
Some of the problems faced by the ladies are of their own creation and others by the times in which they in. They are victims of their own lack of communication. The Dashwood ladies fail to ask each other questions which would have avoid some of their drama. I can’t imagine not asking either of my sisters if they were engaged if I suspected nor can I imagine them not telling me.
Thankful for all involved, Marianne grows up after having her heart broken and nearly dying. Her new maturity allows her to sees the loving man that has been waiting for her. Elinor’s love interest untangles himself from his own impulsive love match and she marries.
Perhaps that is another parallel to our times, people causing themselves problems by failing to communicate. People marry for money and greed causes people to do horrible things to maintain their wealth. The treatment of the Dashwood ladies by John Dashwood is decried in the novel, but far worse things happen these days.
Something that bothered me was that the Dashwood family is said to be improvised after the death of Henry Dashwood, but they are allowed to stay in their former home until a new residence can be found and have enough money to bring three servants with them. No, they aren’t living in a grand manor, but they are far from living in the slums of London.
I don’t enjoy reading, watching or discussing the selfish lives of the rich. It is one of the reasons that I avoid reading the novels of Jane Austen and the like in the past. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the heroines of this novel were not stereotypes. Austen creates well rounded, intelligent and lovable characters.
Austen’s writing not only captures the ills of the age she lived in, but does so in a way that captivates the audience. One can see what is wrong in the society today and how the choices of women are limited, but Austen leaves us to decide how we feel about it and what actions to take. She doesn’t sugar-coat her entire world. We do have to face the fact that her characters wouldn’t have seen much of the really ugly side of life.
The people who do things solely for money are unhappy or at the very least portrayed in a negative light. Today, she still has an audience because of the clever dialogue and plot twists she worked into the novel. Oh, and the English teachers, who assigned it their student.
It isn’t a silly romance, it is a well thought-out novel that happens to contain romance. At least to me…